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Andy Irvine & Paul Brady at Vicar Street, 20 May 2017

“Apparently there are 102 strings on stage,” quips Paul Brady as he tunes one of the impressive array of instruments ranged behind him and Andy Irvine. Dónal Lunny has a couple of string instruments to go along with his bodhrán and keyboard. Kevin Burke seems comparatively modest with his violin’s four strings.
The more unusual instruments, like the bouzouki and the hurdy-gurdy, and the guitars in various tunings, are a testament to the restless curiosity that culminated in the 1976 album ‘Andy Irvine and Paul Brady’. Tuning between songs allows time for stories to flow, and Irvine and Brady give background to the original compositions (“from the mad brains we had back in the 70s”), and to those songs sourced from others such as Eddie Butcher, Andy Mitchell, Shirley Collins, Paddy Tunney, and Sam Henry.
The wounded soldier’s love song, Bonny Woodhall, from Sam Henry’s collection, has a beautiful accompaniment that swirls around Irvine’s clear vocal. The instrumentation builds throughout, drawing the listener into the story as it unfolds. Most of the instruments are picked up by microphones so there is a wonderful immediacy as every pluck and bow is amplified.
The two Sligo tunes that follow, Fred Finn’s Reel and Sailing Into Walpole’s Marsh, are lead by Brady and the reflective mood of the previous song is chased away by the banter between the four musicians (“drain that marsh!”). Lunny picks up the bodhrán for these, lending a very satisfying, full bass sound to the melody instruments.
Brady tells of receiving a letter while “languishing in the US in the early 70s”, from Liam O’Flynn asking him to join Planxty. The only song he had was a version of Arthur McBride and the Sergeant. Irvine recalls the first time Brady sang it for them in Donegal, and we are treated to a genuinely moving performance of this treasured favourite. The crowd burst into prolonged applause after the final “…for it being on Christmas morning”, and as the assembly settle back into their seats, Lunny confirms with a smile that “…they let him into Planxty!”
Irvine’s plaintive Autumn Gold follows, preceded by his amusing recollection of singing it in a barn to the girl he wrote it for “…just the two of us there…she never said a f**king word!”
After these two moving songs comes The Jolly Soldier, sung by Brady. His voice is in fine form, rich and strong. Andy Irvine’s excellent harmonica playing leads the charge in the jig that follows out of the song, The Blarney Pilgrim. Brady can’t resist lilting along.
It’s forty years since the album’s release. The performers and the audience are older, this music now a precious thread woven into all their lives. There is deep joy and exhilaration shared in Vicar Street tonight as it is spun out again through the hands of these four master musicians.
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This review appeared originally on GoldenPlec.com.
David Rooney‘s scraperboard picture appeared originally in Hot Press magazine. Contact him to buy the original.
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Joey Dosik at The Sugar Club, 17 April 2017

One of the reasons that The Sugar Club is such a beloved venue is its layout. The cabaret-style tables step down from the back wall bar to the front and, unlike most venues, patrons enter right by the stage.
Tonight it’s a fairly simple setup for the first of Joey Dosik’s two nights at the club. (He was first in Dublin in September, supporting Vulfpeck at Vicar Street. Later, Dosik asks how many people were at that “crazy show” and, when answered with enthusiastic cheering, remarks “I’d forgotten how loud ya’ll are!”) A microphone, a Fender Rhodes, a Fender amp, and a Korg Univox drum machine are the only things on the stage. As the room fills up, a playlist gets us in the mood: Save The Last Dance For Me, Tequila, God Is Love, Tracks Of My Tears, Say A Little Prayer, Doesn’t Really Matter (Janet Jackson), At Your Best (Aaliyah), Adorn (Miguel), and some more subtle jazz that my phone’s Shazam app can’t discern…
Dosik comes on shortly after nine dressed in a grey suit, white shirt, and reddish patterned tie. Nice shoes, too. Beaming a smile to the audience, he settles down behind the Rhodes. Opening with Van Morrison’s Into The Mystic, which he bashfully introduces as one he likes to warm up with, it’s immediately apparent that there is a lot of love in the room for this man. His soulful, sunny delivery of the song proves too irresistible a groove for us and as we joyfully match his stamping backbeat in the outro he riffs “I like the way you clap”. (“C’mon yo, clapping on the first song?!”)
The tone of the evening is set and, in all but the quietest of songs, Dosik’s fans clap along and sing harmony and generally exude warmth towards him. One song, Simply Beautiful, he does with the guitar completely off the mic. It’s difficult to pull that off in this venue because, even with the most supportive crowd, the bar is still operating at the back. His guitar playing isn’t quite on the same level as his keyboard playing, but this just lends these songs a charm of a different sort. Together with the completely acapella version of Bill Withers’ Stories, they do serve to vary the dynamics of the evening, as does the use of the drum machine. He operates the device with a foot pedal, to greatest effect on the EP title track Game Winner.
The other songs from the EP – Competitive Streak, Running Away – and the title track of his forthcoming album, Inside Voice, are particular highlights, as is his cover of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Happening Brother.
There is such a sense of style and fun and genuine love from Dosik, it’s easy to see why he inspires such enthusiasm in his crowd tonight. As we leave the empty venue there are still easily twenty people queuing to meet him and to buy merch. Hopefully he’ll be back (with a band!) to charm us again soon.
First published on GoldenPlec.com

Nathalia Milstein @ St Ann’s Church, Dublin (11 October 2016)

Last year she won the Dublin International Piano Competition, in February she gave a recital at The National Concert Hall, and tonight Nathalia Milstein (“mill-shtyne”) begins a ten-day tour of Ireland with this concert in St Ann’s Church on Dawson Street.

Her wide-ranging programme takes in Bach, Mozart, Bartók, Liszt, Ravel, and the piece commissioned from Gráinne Mulvey for the Dublin International Piano Competition. The insightful programme notes, written by classical journalist and reviewer Pat O’Kelly, supply background and context for the diverse pieces: Bach walking for ten days to hear an inspirational keyboardist, Mozart as a busy 18-year-old musician performing his latest sonatas in Munich, and of course a few hints about the composers’ love lives. It is necessary (and frequently fascinating) to have these human reference points alongside an art form that can so easily become rarified.

Milstein gives a riveting performance of Gráinne Mulvey’s Interference Patterns, drawing on the lyrical style of the Liszt that preceded it, and also the intense energy of The Chase from the Bartók suite. Mulvey’s piece is inspired by the work of 19th century Irish scientist John Tyndall on the behaviour of waves when they meet an obstacle. A most vivid expression of this is achieved towards the end of the piece. It was as if Milstein sent two shockwaves through the piano – a remarkable gesture, the sound almost visibly emanating from the instrument.

(A very effective transition is achieved between the prayerful ending of Liszt’s Sonneto and Interference Patterns. Having consistently stood up to receive applause at the end of each of the pieces in the first half, the pianist remained seated at the end of the Liszt. This meant the audience didn’t applaud, and Milstein could begin the next piece without breaking the atmosphere just created.)

Maurice Ravel’s suite, Le tombeau de Couperin, was written one hundred years ago and remains one of the most delightful pieces of solo piano writing in the canon. Beginning with her head up, her demeanour calm as the delicate machinery of the opening Prélude flutters into life, Milstein’s performance of the six movements is a joy to behold. Ravel’s extraordinary writing for the piano is brought to life in her hands and the luminous shimmer in the last bars of the Prélude is a beautiful moment. Ravel dedicates each of the movements to friends and colleagues killed in World War I. Behind the piano, the ornate rolls of honour that flank the altar in St Ann’s serve as a reminder of its congregation’s own grief at the loss of their sons during that war. The Forlane carries itself with swagger and Milstein gives an assured reading of this courtly dance, gracefully partnering with Ravel’s melancholy harmonies and finely-wrought invention. There is something personal and intimate in Ravel’s writing. It’s there, too, in Bartók’s The Night’s Music, sometimes stellar and sometimes scrabbling, and in the Bach Toccata that opened the concert. Witnessing the artistry and technique of Nathalia Milstein’s playing tonight in the hushed church is a sublime experience.

Programme:

  • Johann Sebastian Bach – Toccata in C minor BWV 911
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Piano Sonata No 3 in B flat K 281
  • Béla Bartók – Out of Doors Sz 81
  • Franz Liszt – Sonneto del Petrarca No 104 S 161
  • Gráinne Mulvey – Interference Patterns
  • Maurice Ravel – Le tombeau de Couperin
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Nathalia Milstein at St Ann’s church, Dublin / photograph by Frances Marshall

Click the photo for more of Frances Marshall’s photos from the night.

This review was done for GoldenPlec.com